Title: Biutiful (2010)
Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Cast: Javier Bardem, Maricel Alvarez
What I like most about Alejandro Gonzalez Inaritu’s films is that they have this enhanced feeling of reality to them. It’s not only the documentary style he uses or how he lights them, or the excellent performances he squeezes out of his actors, which are all attributes that I love from his films; no, what I really love about Inarritu’s films is what happens in them; because when you watch an Inarritu film, you feel like you’re getting a slice of raw realism placed before your eyes. Inarritu’s films are filled with the kind of realism that most Hollywood films shy away from. Sometimes when I watch a film, and I see for example a character living in a house or driving a car that’s obviously way out of the characters financial reach, I feel disconnected and cheated. I mean, sometimes you can just tell that the filmmakers are putting their characters in these unrealistic situations just so the film can look pretty and so the characters end up surrounded by huge houses and expensive cars that only Hollywood can buy. Unfortunately, both you and I know that in films like those, real life isn’t being represented. This is something that does not happen in Inarritu’s films, where the common man, the poor man, lives in a humble home and has very little food to eat. Inarritu's characters wear worn out clothes and have to struggle to survive.
Poverty is a theme that not a lot of filmmakers like to address, or more appropriately Hollywood doesn’t like address. Why? Because poverty by nature is an extremely sad thing, real poverty and the kind of lives that real poor people live can bring you to tears...and the masses (read: the grand majority of people) want to go to the movies to laugh and to be entertained. There are exceptions of course. That scene in The Pursuit of Happiness (2006) for example, where Will Smith’s character ends up having to sleep in a public restroom with his son because he has no money, I bet you choked up with that one didn’t ya? Or how about that scene in Cinderella Man (2006) where Russell Crow’s character doesn’t have a job and all he has to give to his kids for dinner is a slice of salami? I know that one got the waterworks going for me, and with good reason. Damn, we can even go as far back as Chaplin and his tramp eating a shoe during New Years Eve in Chaplins Gold Rush (1925). Situations like these happen in the world every day, and worse, and its sad that this is so. Yes folks, poverty is a sad ugly thing that many choose to ignore, but not Inarritu.
Javier Bardem plays Uxbal, a hustler with no money to feed the kids
I love it when films explore the dark sad side of life, because all that sadness and darkness is part of the world we live in. What’s the point of ignoring it when we can learn something from it? Inarritu is a filmmaker that knows this and has become a champion of the dark side of life. From day one in his career back when he made his first film Amores Perros (2001), I fell in love with his style of filmmaking. It felt real somehow. You felt like these characters could very well exist in the real world. And they act and talk like real people, not an ounce of dialog feels unnatural. Inarritu’s films are filtered through the sadness and despair of real life. It’s why his films are so refreshing.
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
In Biutiful we meet Uxbal, a hustler. This is a character rooted in duality, he is equal times a good guy and a bad guy. He’s a bad guy because he works running a sweat shop that employs illegal immigrants in the production of cheap imitations of big name brand products. Basically they make imitation purses, watches, sun glasses, you know the drill. He delivers the dirty money used to pay the police so they can sell these things on the streets without getting caught. He makes sure his workers have a place to sleep and are paid for their work. But he is also a good guy in the sense that he is a family man, and he is trying to give his children a better life. But no matter how much he tries, he just can’t seem to get out of the rut he is in. He barely has enough money to put some decent food on the table for his kids. One heart breaking scene has his kids begging for a good dinner, and all he has to give them is a bowl of cereal. As he pours the milk on it, he says “heres your steak and your potatoes”
So yeah, the film is about poverty and about money (or lack of it) and of how the world we live in has people back stabbing each other for it. It’s kind of similar to No Country for Old Men (2007) in that sense. Almost every single character in Biutiful is looking for a way to make that little extra cash by cheating, lying and betraying others. This is the kind of world we live in. Uxbal himself is always trying to take a little for himself, he takes money from the money he is supposed to give to the cops, he takes money that’s given to him to run the business. He does this in order to feed his family. He’s the kind of character that looks for the cheap solution to whatever problem, just so he can have some money left for his responsibilities as a father. He steals so that he can feed his kids, this is the kind of situation that he has been forced into. And it’s the kind of movie this is, actually it’s the kind of movie Inarritu has been making from the beginning where he shows us the lengths and risks that the poor will take to make some extra dough. Biutiful is a movie that shows us how the world we live in forces people to live this way. Does the world have to be like this? Why is Uxbal and his family struggling like this? Why can’t Uxbal get out of the rut?
Which brings me to the films title: Biutiful. The title of the film accentuates what it’s really about. The lack of education and the need for it in order to get out of the proverbial hole. One scene has Uxbal’s daughter ask him how to write the word ‘beautiful’ in English and Uxbal writes it the way it sounds in Spanish: Biutiful. It is misspelled, accentuating in this way the need for education in order to have a better life. But education is currently under attack in the world we live in, schools are being shut down, the price you have to pay for Higher Education has gone up to astronomical prices, hell, right now even federal grants are in danger of being taken away in some countries. And so, for me, Biutiful was trying to show us how much Education is needed for the poor to get out of poverty. My question is: why is higher education becoming so inaccessible to the less fortunate? Is there some sort of master plan to keep education out of the reach of the poor? If it is, then families like the one seen in Biutiful will continue to multiply. Yes, Biutiful is a bleak picture, the kind of film where nothing but bad things happen to the main character, so be ready for that.
And yet another theme that Biutiful addresses is death. Uxbal is a character stricken by cancer. He’s case is pretty hopeless, cancer has practically eaten him up, so much so that he urinates blood. So this urges him to do something for his kids, save money for them, because ultimately, that’s all that matters when you are a parent. The well being of your kids. When you are about to leave this world, you want to leave something for them, make sure they will be okay when you die. Sadly, in this difficult and complex world we live in, where ‘the people’ are the ones that have to end up paying for their governments economical “crisis’s” and “deficits” even that becomes a difficult task.
Rating: 5 out of 5